JUDICIAL elections, and the amount of money spent on them, have been a hotly covered topic in West Virginia for many years now.
Since our state's enormously expensive 2004 Supreme Court race - which saw millions of dollars in spending from candidates and outside groups on both sides of the political aisle - personal injury lawyers and many others alike have called for reforms that would help reduce the influence of special-interest money on our state's highest court.
Lawmakers responded to the perceived problem, in part, by passing a public financing pilot program recommended by then-Gov. Joe Manchin's Independent Commission on Judicial Reform.
The public financing program was praised by many, including The New York Times and the personal injury lawyer-backed West Virginia Association for Justice, which called the pilot program a "good idea."
Flash forward two years, and only one of the four remaining candidates for Supreme Court this year - Republican Allen Loughry - has elected to use the public financing pilot program.
Nominee John Yoder opted out of the public financing program, citing the difficulty of raising the necessary qualifying contributions.
And yet "special interest" money still plays a significant role in this year's court race.
That's because personal-injury lawyer backed nominees Robin Davis and Tish Chafin have tapped into their considerable family wealth, a by-product of both their families' extremely successful personal injury law firms.
To date, Justice Davis has loaned her campaign more than $350,000.
Tish Chafin has put in a whopping $1 million of personal funds.
Personal injury lawyers have also contributed nearly $200,000 to the two candidates' campaigns, which accounts for approximately 40 percent of their total campaign contributions.
Anticipating this situation - in which individually wealthy candidates could otherwise overwhelm public financing participants and perpetuate the perception that justice is for sale in West Virginia - state lawmakers included provisions that provide additional funding for outspent candidates.